Lymphatic Massage for Swollen Feet and Ankles

Are you dealing with uncomfortable swelling in your feet and ankles? This is known as edema, which is the result of excess fluid building up in your tissues. It can be caused by many different things, such as heart disease, pregnancy or certain medications.

If youíre not sure whatís causing your edema, check with your doctor to find out. Edema itself is not often dangerous, but the underlying cause could be.

You donít have to put up with swollen feet and ankles. Thereís a lot you can do for relief, such as lymphatic massage. Read on to find out how lymphatic massage works and steps to give yourself a massage or exchange one with a friend.

Related: 10 Natural Remedies for Swollen Feet and Ankles

What is Lymphatic Massage?

Also known as Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), or Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), lymphatic massage is a gentle form of massage that is meant to improve the function of your lymphatic system.

Your lymphatic system is similar to your circulatory system. But instead of blood, lymphatic vessels carry a colorless fluid called lymph throughout your body. Lymph bathes all your tissues, and one of its main functions is to move excess fluids into your bloodstream to be delivered to the bladder and other organs for elimination.

When your lymphatic system isnít flowing properly, it can lead to fluids building up in your tissues. The problem can be compounded by the fact that lymph doesnít circulate like blood, which is continuously kept moving by your heart. Instead, lymph relies on the movements of your body to flow.

Muscle movement and the natural action of breathing will move lymph, so keeping active will always help your lymphatic system. But if your mobility is impaired, lymphatic massage is another great way to keep your lymph flowing.

Research has shown that gentle massage of your lymph vessels and nodes can significantly improve the flow and distribution rate of lymph. This helps move excess fluids out of areas like your feet and ankles and back into circulation for elimination.

Lymphatic massage is not recommended when you suffer from certain conditions like deep vein thrombosis or congestive heart failure. Always check with your doctor before starting a new massage routine to make sure itís safe for you.

Related: 8 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health

How to Give a Lymphatic Massage

Use the guidelines below to give yourself a lymphatic massage. Or better yet, share them with a friend or family member so you can give each other a massage.

Keep in mind that lymph nodes and vessels are usually close to the surface of your skin. This means you donít need to press very hard during your massage; a gentle touch is most effective.

1. Clear the way.

It may sound counterintuitive, but to drain fluid out of your feet and ankles, you actually need to start your massage at your neck and torso.

The majority of lymph vessels move lymph towards your upper chest and drain into the veins near your heart. So, itís important to first clear lymph out of your upper body in order to create space for excess fluids in your lower body to move up and drain into your veins.

Before you start your massage, make sure your legs and feet are elevated. Itís easiest to lie down and raise your legs and feet on some pillows. Gravity will start draining fluid from your feet and ankles before you even touch them.

In the video below, Heather Wibbels shows some helpful neck massage and breathing techniques to move lymph out of your neck and torso region.

2. Massage your legs next.

Itís helpful to know a bit more about lymph nodes as you continue your massage. Lymph nodes, or lymph glands, are small organs located along the lymph vessels. Theyíre about the size of a pea or a bean, and they filter lymph as it passes through them, removing harmful substances like pathogens and toxins.

Lymph nodes also help to keep lymph moving as it flows in and out of the nodes. Itís important to massage your lymph nodes as part of your routine to promote better lymph flow.

There are large groups of lymph nodes in your armpits, groin area and the backs of your knees. The video below gives a good overview of how to move lymph into these areas to assist with drainage. You start at the armpits to clear the way, then move downwards towards the feet.

Related: How to Boost Your Immune System with Dry Brushing

3. And finally, massage your feet and ankles.

By now, most of the work is done to assist fluid moving up and out of your feet and ankles. If youíve been working while lying down, it may be helpful to sit up at this point to make it easier to reach and massage your feet. Sitting on a bed or the floor with one leg bent and your foot flat on the surface is often a comfortable position.

Make gentle, half-circle motions with the palm of your hand from your toes up to your ankle. Do this on the top and bottom of your feet. Repeat these at least 10 times each. You can also make small, kneading movements around the malleoli (the bony parts on each side of the ankle). Do at least 10 circles around each malleolus clockwise, then another 10 counterclockwise.

Another helpful technique is to gently rub three of the main lymphatic draining areas on each foot as described in the video below.

4. Repeat often.

It may take time to see a reduction in your swelling. Itís recommended to give yourself a 10- to 15-minute massage every day if possible. If you donít have time, try for at least a couple times a week.

Also, you can take opportunities throughout your day to work on your lymphatic system. You can inconspicuously rub your neck while waiting at a traffic light or riding an elevator. Or you could gently massage your legs while watching TV or reading a book. Every bit of massage will help keep your lymph moving and reduce swelling in your feet and ankles.

Related at Care2



Tania N
Tania N12 hours ago

Thank you

Tania N
Tania N12 hours ago

Thank you

Tania N
Tania N12 hours ago

Thank you

Linda W
Linda Wallaceabout a month ago

Thanks. Summer heat seems to make it worse.

Cindy S
Cindy Sabout a month ago


natasha p
Past Member 1 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago


Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI3 months ago

thanks Zoe very interesting

natasha p
Past Member 5 months ago

I have bad swelling